Valentine’s Day Power Couple:
Dark Chocolate & Red Wine
An indulgent match made in health heaven.
As the holiday of love comes and goes, one truth will remain: the type of chocolate and wine you enjoy matters. The darker the treat, the greater its gift to heart health.
The ingredient making dark chocolate a nutrition powerhouse is cocoa. Cocoa contains antioxidant-acting plant compounds called polyphenols commonly found in other foods like tea, blueberries and wine (See?! Power couple!). Antioxidant-acting compounds are important for maintaining your health by protecting the body and immune system from breaking down and becoming more susceptible to disease.
The specific polyphenols studied in dark chocolate are called flavanols. Studies of flavanol-rich cocoa and chocolate suggest they may have heart-protective properties such as reducing blood pressure, the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and increasing insulin sensitivity. The darker the chocolate the greater amount of flavanol-rich cocoa it contains.
When enjoying dark chocolate or cocoa, keep these tips in mind:
• Choose natural cocoa, over Dutch-processed, for a higher concentration of flavanols.
• Be mindful of portion size, since calories, caffeine and saturated fat can add up. You’ll reap benefits with just 1 to 2 ounces each day.
Red wine has plenty of polyphenol antioxidant-acting compounds itself, with resveratrol the most widely discussed. Other compounds such as catechin, epicatechin, quercetin and anthocyanin have been studied for their supportive role in the heart-health benefits of red wine. Interestingly enough, the conversation around red wine has become murky throughout the years.
Although early observational research associated drinking red wine with a reduced risk for heart disease, subsequent research has both supported and questioned the specific impacts red wine has on heart disease risk. Like chocolate, researchers have looked into red wine’s impact on blood sugar control too. Whether the reason behind red wine’s role on blood sugar is the alcohol or the antioxidant-acting compounds remains questionable.
That said, the take-home message from researchers is that moderate consumption of red wine, for those already drinking alcohol, has heart-protective benefits1. Moderate consumption is considered no more than 1, 4- to 5-ounce glass for women and 2, 4- to 5-ounce glasses for men each day.